June 6, 2014
To the Macalester Community:
We are among the 71 non-tenure-track (or “contingent”) Macalester faculty who were to have voted this June on representation by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Like many of you, we did not expect the cancellation of the vote. We now find ourselves reflecting on the past month.
We don’t know what the outcome of the election would have been, and we fear that some may jump to unjustified conclusions about what the election’s cancellation means. Does it mean that we, members of Macalester’s faculty, have taken an “anti-union” position, or that we are the victims of “union busting?” Decidedly not. We gathered as much information as was possible considering the timeline, and we were prepared to cast informed, educated votes. Even many of us who would have voted “no” to the specific question on the ballot remain staunch supporters of unions as agents of social and economic justice.
We have become increasingly aware, however, that of all the voices expressed during the active unionization drive, ours were the ones least heard and most misrepresented. During the election period, labor law prohibited an open discussion between the voting group, our tenure-track colleagues, and the administration. Now that the vote has been canceled we are excited to open our discussions up to the rest of the college community.
After the union vote was announced at the end of April, those of us eligible to vote actively sought each other out and engaged in extensive discussion. We found that we are a diverse group. Some of us have taught at Macalester for decades; others began teaching here just last spring. Our duties range from teaching a single class to teaching a full load plus advising and research. We have different backgrounds, specialize in different fields, and teach in different departments. Our opinions about unionization turned out to be similarly diverse. However, we found broad consensus on two points:
First, we love Macalester. Our colleagues and students make us feel valued and welcome. We are fortunate to belong to such a warm, friendly, inclusive, and supportive community of extraordinary people. As our discussion of the vote unfolded, this sense of gratitude grew. Despite the increasingly heated public rhetoric of the last few weeks, our private conversations have remained collegial, thoughtful, and revealing. This discussion has made us doubly proud to be a part of Macalester.
Second, although the full range of issues is still unclear, we are concerned by an apparent disconnect between the egalitarian feelings of our social relationships on campus and some practical facts of employment that affect many faculty members. We found that even a month of intense discussions simply hasn’t been enough time to figure out what all the issues are. We have come out of the election period concerned, energized, and eager to find a process for our community to identify and address these issues.
It is our utmost desire to preserve the exceptionally positive and congenial relationship with our colleagues that we currently enjoy. Macalester is a special place, and we wish it to remain so. We submit this letter with great appreciation for the fact that everyone — faculty and staff, regardless of status, and regardless of unionization viewpoint — fundamentally wants what is best for the future of this college and for our students. We look forward to undertaking this work together.